My parents always talk about politics and Israel and it all seems so scary right now, like the world’s turning upside down. I feel scared and sad. I feel like maybe the world that’s left to me is going to be filled with violence. I’m worried the Arabs are going to come here and attack us just like in Israel and France. Also, I’m only a teenager. I’m 14! What am I supposed to do? Is there anything I can do? Do you have any ideas for me? How can I get these horrible thoughts out of my head and these terrible feelings out of my heart?

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

Even though you are “only a teenager,” we all have the same questions as you do. We’re all thinking: I’m not a president. I’m not an ambassador. I’m not the head of any army. What can I do? What am I supposed to do?

Also, we all – anyone who’s aware of world events – are scared and sad and wondering what kind of world our future world will be.

So everything you’re feeling is, unfortunately, totally normal.

What can we do? A few things.

First and foremost, we can realize that God runs this world. This crazy, topsy-turvy, mixed-up world where good people are demonized and evil is sanctioned. Where news articles report that “An Arab was shot” and don’t mention that first he stabbed an innocent person who was just walking down the street. It’s not “random violence” that’s happening. It’s closely monitored violence, monitored by a God who knows what’s going on, a God who understands the inner workings of people, and – most importantly – a God who loves you. God runs this world, knows what’s happening in it, and anything not in your control is in God’s control. You’re not expected to be a president, an ambassador, or an army general. You’re just supposed to be you, recognizing that God is the Master of the Universe and the King of the World, and that He’s running this show. That in and of itself should be some comfort.

What might God want from us right now? Certainly our prayers. Prayers that good be rewarded and that evil disappear from the world. And prayers that the good people of the world be protected from evil.

What else might God want from us? Probably for us to create good, wherever we are.

I was privy to a conversation today. It went like this:

“You’re a waste of a human being.”
“Well, you’re just detestable and deplorable.”
“You’re NOTHING.”

That’s certainly not what God wants from us. Our job is to create good wherever we are. To recognize the spirit of godliness in every human being, and to respect each and every person we come in contact with. To say hello to the bank teller, to thank the grocery store clerk, to shake our neighbor’s hand in brotherhood and friendship, recognizing that each and every person is a child of God.

There were two things that made me cry yesterday.

One was a line I heard in the song Written in the Stars: “Have you ever been so hungry that it kept you awake?” It reminded me of sadness, darkness, and suffering in the world.

And, on the other hand, the second thing that made me cry was the video I received from The Shabbos Project, “The World Made Havdala.” Set to a stunning traditional melody for the service at the end of Shabbat, it showed crowds of people all over the world celebrating together at the end of the Sabbath. It made me cry because I was so moved by so much goodness being created. So much unity, so much joy, so much peace.

The Shabbos Project is actually a perfect example of creating good, creating peace, and creating joy in this world of ours that seems so dark and scary. Do you want to hear good news about the world? Listen to what was going on this past Shabbat! Thousands of people kept the Sabbath together, in 465 cities in 64 countries around the world. People invited other people to their homes for the Sabbath meals, there were city-wide pre-Shabbat Challah Bakes, and post-Shabbat havdalah concerts. (Take a look at TheShabbosProject.org!)

Tel Aviv hosted Friday night picnics on two main streets. The mayor of Sederot hosted a communal Shabbat dinner for 1,000 people. In Tzfat, where Shalom Aleichem and Lecha Dodi were written, they had a city-wide unity Kabbalat Shabbat service with singing galore. LA organizers closed down Pico Boulevard to have a Friday night Shabbat dinner for 3000 people! In Baltimore, they had a challah bake at the Maryland State Fairgrounds for 4500 women and girls. (Jewish sisters, unite! You go, girl!) They had 6,750 pounds of flour, 1,575 pounds of sugar, 730 pounds of oil, 750 dozen eggs, 11 pounds of salt, 4,500 packs of yeast and 450 gallons of water! Last year, in Buenos Aires, there were 13,000 people at the Havdalah concert!

That’s creating light in a dark world.

If you want to get those sad and scared thoughts out of your head and horrible feelings out of your heart, go create some good in your life with the people around you. Pray. And remember that God is taking care of everything.